America’s sea change to climate change.jpg

America’s sea change to climate change


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THE AMERICAN EMBASSY in Lisbon is hoping to organise a renewable energy and related technologies trade fair in Portugal which could open the door to new partnerships between the two countries.

Talking to The Resident, environmental scientist Amy Zimpfer, of the Californian-based Environmental Protection Agency, said the project would be an opportunity to bring companies working in the sector together, identifying opportunities in the market and hammering out financial agreements.

“I’m walking away from Portugal with a much better understanding of the country and the energy situation here and what both the government and companies are doing about renewable energy and climate change,” she said.

Amy Zimpfer said she had been very impressed that Portugal had a number of

Environmental scientist Amy Zimpfer, of the Californian-based Environmental Protection Agency. Photo: CHRIS GRAEME - THE RESIDENT
Environmental scientist Amy Zimpfer, of the Californian-based Environmental Protection Agency. Photo: CHRIS GRAEME – THE RESIDENT

energy-saving directives “on target” to move from using a total of 39 per cent renewable energy sources to 45 per cent.

“We’re having a hard time in California reaching a 20 per cent renewable target to generate our electric power,” she added.

The energy expert added that she would “never forget her first drive up the A8 motorway to Peniche and seeing the number of eolic windmills which was “amazing”.

“I think Portugal is going in the right direction and there’s a political, commercial and social will out there to carry out the investment needed in renewable energies,” she said.

In the past few years, the United States is waking up to the threat of global warning and climate change and is not only taking that threat seriously, but is starting to react.

This change is happening at a government level, at state level, at city level and even at grass roots level in schools and local communities.

“It’s very exciting, I think the present administration and all of the political election candidates recognise the issue of climate change and its importance,” says Amy Zimpfer.

There’s definitely been a sea change, contrary to alarmist tales of US ignorance and opposition in the international press.

In 2007, there were three really important events in the United States reflecting this environmental wake-up call.

The change in Congress opened up a lot of dialogue among both Republicans and Democrats on the need to focus on these problems, with an Energy Bill passed in December 2007, which, for the first time in many years, increased the corporate average fuel economy requirement for the fleets of vehicles sold in the United States.

Renewable fuels

“The Bush administration is trying to work closely with the 110th Congress and in February 2007 an Intergovernmental Panel produced an Assessment Report on Climate Change,” she said. “It summarised the current body of science from over 2,000 scientists worldwide and concluded that not only was the climate changing but that man’s activities have contributed to that climate change.”

That report, which tried to quantify the uncertainty associated with these conclusions, got a lot of attention nationwide.

The Supreme Court also made a determination in April 2007 that the existing Clean Air Act should not only give authority to the Environmental Protection Agency but requires it to regulate green house gases under the Act, and that also got a lot of media attention.

In May 2007, the President put forward an Executive Order addressing renewable fuels and required the EPA to work with the Departments of Energy and Transportation on Fuel Economy Standards, which we have been working on over the past nine months, and some of that culminated in the Energy Bill that was passed in the summer,” explained Amy Zimpfer.

“I think there has been a sea change in national, state and public awareness and changes are happening big time at all levels, although there is still a need for national consistency,” she said.

Environmental issues and climate change are in the national curriculum, there are widespread recycling initiatives, local government and its mayors throughout the United States are tackling the issue head on with 450 mayors signed up to Compacts to develop a Climate Change Action Plan.

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